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The Many Are Called

REFLECTIONS ON MULTITUDE: WAR AND DEMOCRACY IN THE AGE OF EMPIRE

There is no doubt that I would not have under­tak­en to write this book if I had not lived in the midst of the most ide­o­log­i­cal­ly bru­tal of West­ern peo­ple at the century’s end – of a peo­ple who equal­ly deny not only sin­gu­lar­i­ties, but even their own ide­o­log­i­cal phan­tasms and max­i­miza­tions.

Rein­er Schürmann1)Schürmann, Rein­er. Bro­ken Hege­monies. Trans. by Regi­nald Lil­ly. Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2003. foot­note 72, p.638.

INTRODUCTION

THE EPIGRAPH CITED above was writ­ten around 1990 and is a strong indi­ca­tion of what the Amer­i­can Empire in its dri­ve towards glob­al dom­i­na­tion and ide­o­log­i­cal hege­mo­ny has con­sis­tent­ly demon­strat­ed in its lat­est peri­od of Impe­r­i­al rule – its utter dis­re­gard and con­tempt for oth­er cul­tures, inter­na­tion­al laws, and what­ev­er col­lat­er­al dam­age it leaves in its wake. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the col­lapse of the Sovi­et Union, the first Per­sian Gulf War, and the inces­sant pro­nounce­ments of the tri­umphs of neo lib­er­al­ism (best ampli­fied by the the­sis of the end of his­to­ry giv­en by the right Hegelian Frances Fukuya­ma and more recent­ly by the sin­is­ter world design for­mu­lat­ed by the Project for a New Amer­i­can Cen­tu­ry (PNAC)), the North Amer­i­can left has been thrown into anoth­er cri­sis of dis­ar­ray and has anx­ious­ly await­ed a grand counter nar­ra­tive to con­front the omnipresent and mul­ti­far­i­ous tri­umphal­ism of the new right. Liv­ing in a polit­i­cal void, per­haps iron­i­cal­ly cre­at­ed by post­mod­ernist read­ings and prac­tices in the acad­e­my, the left found itself con­fronting a space in which chal­lenges to sys­temic change and trans­for­ma­tive prax­is fell pri­mar­i­ly on deaf ears. Derrida’s Spec­tres of Marx: the State of the Debt, the Work of Mourn­ing, and the New Inter­na­tion­al (1994) was at best a decon­struc­tive analy­sis of the phan­tas­mago­ria of both mer­can­tile and late cap­i­tal­ism, and in order to be more descrip­tive­ly accu­rate, one could eas­i­ly invert the sub­ti­tle to read the debt of the state, the mourn­ing of the work­ing poor, and the lack of a new inter­na­tion­al. How­ev­er, there has emerged an inno­v­a­tive the­o­ret­i­cal work to fill this void, one which offers the promise of a new per­spec­tive on transna­tion­al cap­i­tal­ism, an attempt to think beyond the old­er lan­guage of Impe­ri­al­ism and reveal the New World Order at work.

Michael Hardt and Anto­nio Negri’s Empire (2000) is the syn­the­sis that had been await­ed and holds that the old­er lan­guage of Impe­ri­al­ism is out­mod­ed and cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly inad­e­quate for an analy­sis of the new forms of dom­i­na­tion that transna­tion­al cap­i­tal had tak­en. Hardt and Negri prof­fer a new dis­tinc­tion between the dis­ci­pli­nary soci­eties and the more recent form of the soci­eties of con­trol (a dis­tinc­tion bor­rowed from Deleuze). The dis­ci­pli­nary soci­ety belongs to cen­tral­ized pow­er (i.e. the pow­er of the state, Impe­ri­al­ism) where­as the soci­eties of con­trol (Empire) are dis­persed, decen­tral­ized with mul­ti­ple sites of com­mand, and no site, how­ev­er car­di­nal or van­tage (anal­o­gous to the Ben­thamite panop­ti­con), belong­ing to the para­dox of an ubiq­ui­tous decen­tered pow­er. A cru­cial con­cep­tu­al nodal point that Hardt and Negri see oper­a­tive in the dri­ve towards the ‘‘new world order” is that of biopow­er, which describes the fash­ion in which Empire func­tions as a soci­ety of con­trol which attempts to chron­i­cle and order alter­i­ty and the “Oth­er” into fixed posi­tions that ren­der dis­si­dence impo­tent.

Tak­ing a cue from Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti Oedi­pus and A Thou­sand Plateaus, these authors find a topos in empire (no mat­ter how despot­ic) of new pos­si­bil­i­ties of polit­i­cal activism. Deter­ri­to­ri­al­iza­tion and nomadic lines of flight become rev­o­lu­tion­ary tac­tics in the age of empire; one no longer employs the tac­tic of sit­u­at­ing one­self against the state (the old­er lan­guage of impe­ri­al­ism) because empire can incor­po­rate such posi­tions. One sees much empir­i­cal evi­dence of reter­ri­to­ri­al­iza­tion in the man­age­ment of rebel­lious forces and rev­o­lu­tion­ary poten­tial par­tic­u­lar­ly in the coop­ta­tion and dilu­tion of hip hop cul­ture in recent years; the chan­nels of rebel­lion have become part and par­cel of main­stream mar­ket econ­o­my. The “mul­ti­tude,” then, becomes an agent of deter­ri­to­ri­al­iza­tion through which rev­o­lu­tion­ary effects which can­not be resi­t­u­at­ed with­in empire can be pro­duced. The ear­ly mod­el for Negri and Hardt’s con­cep­tion of the mul­ti­tude is the 1994 Zap­ati­sa upris­ing against NAFTA in Chi­a­pas. This upris­ing was described as sin­gu­lar and incom­mu­ni­ca­ble, a thor­ough oppo­si­tion to state pow­er with­out any spe­cif­ic pro­gram, a col­lec­tive ener­gy that can­not be con­tained nor mapped for its iden­ti­ty and demands. How­ev­er, this kind of upheaval was not enough for a new rev­o­lu­tion­ary pro­gram; an alter­na­tive par­a­digm was need­ed, one in which new forms of pro­duc­tion and liv­ing labor are to be ground­ed in cre­ativ­i­ty and new use of tools; that is, a polit­i­cal ontol­ogy found­ed on a merg­er of poe­sis and pro­duc­tion, one that does not have a pre­for­mu­lat­ed agen­da but an alter­na­tive which aris­es from unique cir­cum­stances and in which new polit­i­cal con­fig­u­ra­tions are invent­ed. The hope of “pure” polit­i­cal cre­ativ­i­ty, for instance, a polit­i­cal body that emerges from its own self, is the real pos­si­bil­i­ty for change put forth in Empire.

Negri and Hardt will also hold to three cru­cial demands, all of which are indebt­ed to the val­ues of Enlight­en­ment think­ing. They demand uni­ver­sal cit­i­zen­ship (rights of man dis­course) for all, a guar­an­teed income for all, and equal tak­ing and shar­ing of the means of pro­duc­tion (the marx­i­an dis­course of abil­i­ty and needs). All three pre­sup­pose a uni­ver­sal glob­al democ­ra­cy and in its back­ground a “social space” (Kristin Ross) cre­at­ed from the time of the Paris Com­mune of 1871.

All of this to say that Empire, despite its the­o­ret­i­cal bril­liance in ana­lyz­ing the new forms that neo-lib­er­al­ism and glob­al­iza­tion man­i­fest, did not flesh out the pos­si­bil­i­ty of the new exter­mi­nat­ing angel of the glob­al transna­tion- al sys­tem and the con­crete pos­si­bil­i­ty of agency sans an ide­al­ist ide­ol­o­gy. We were giv­en new cat­e­gories for analy­sis and cri­tique but none for prac­tice. The notion of the mul­ti­tude did not have a sub­stan­tive and con­crete the­o­ry of agency, no the­o­ry of class, and ulti­mate­ly we were left hang­ing in the usu­al posi­tion of wait­ing on lefty to be told what is to be done. It is under these cir­cum­stances that the sequel to Empire, Mul­ti­tude: War and Democ­ra­cy in the age of Empire (2004) was writ­ten.

FROM INFINITE WAR TO CONDITIONS FOR DEMOCRACY

There­fore the prince should nev­er turn his mind from the study of war; in times of peace he should think about it even more than in wartime.

Machi­avel­li, The Prince2)Machi­avel­li, N. The Prince. Trans. and ed. By Robert M. Adams. Nor­ton crit­i­cal edi­tion. 1992. p.41.

Writ­ten in the style of a por­ten­tous reportage, Mul­ti­tude promis­es a mosa­ic that is the sequel to Empire, an inter­weav­ing of con­cepts and prac­ti­cal rea­son that hints towards action and will address the con­tem­po­rary post 9/11 sit­u­a­tion:

Our pri­ma­ry aim is to work out the con­cep­tu­al basis on which a new project of democ­ra­cy can stand.
… Think of the book as a mosa­ic from which the gen­er­al design grad­u­al­ly emerges.3)Hardt.M, and Negri,T. Mul­ti­tude: War and Democ­ra­cy in the Age of Empire. New York: Pen­guin, 2004. p.xvii.

Begin­ning with the new state of war and a long exe­ge­sis on state of excep­tion from Cincin­na­tus the Noble to the U.S. excep­tion­al­ism of Made­line Albright and the cur­rent tight­en­ing of bor­ders, Negri and Hardt point to the para­dox­es of the “new” war and the prodi­gious chal­lenges it pos­es to the real­iza­tion of their project. The sec­tion on War occu­pies the first one-third of the book and allows the authors to recon­struct their descrip­tion of Empire itself and use the “Rev­o­lu­tion in Mil­i­tary Affairs (RMA)” as an extend­ed metaphor for the emer­gence of Empire. This empha­sis on and analy­sis of RMA serves as an antic­i­pa­to­ry moment “ in some ways, the forms of biopo­lit­i­cal pro­duc­tion of the mul­ti­tude.” (Mul­ti­tude 44) In gen­er­al, the “Rev­o­lu­tion in Mil­i­tary Affairs” con­cen­trates on the notion of asym­met­ri­cal con­flict, a new form of dis­persed con­flict and tar­get­ing of pop­u­la­tion in which every­one becomes sus­pect. One can see this today in Iraq, espe­cial­ly in the recent “acci­den­tal” wound­ing of a left­ist Ital­ian jour­nal­ist, Giu­liana Sgrena, and the killing of her secret ser­vice body­guard. To win, the U.S. employs “full spec­trum dom­i­nance,” which is designed to pro­duce sub­mis­sion. Hardt and Negri under­stand that this design is able to com­bine “mil­i­tary pow­er with social, eco­nom­ic, polit­i­cal, psy­cho­log­i­cal, and ide­o­log­i­cal con­trol.” (Mul­ti­tude 55) The RMA, for instance, depends not only on state–of-the-art tech­nol­o­gy but also on the new forms of labor,“ mobile, flex­i­ble, imma­te­r­i­al forms of social labor”. (Mul­ti­tude 44) Essen­tial­ly, it is the mil­i­tary the­o­rists who have dis­cov­ered the con­cept of biopow­er and in their own strange way have under­stood the pro­duc­tion of docile sub­jects (Fou­cault).

The con­cept of biopow­er is an expla­na­tion of how the cur­rent regime’s war machine not only threat­ens us with a con­stant death dri­ve but also “rules over life, pro­duc­ing and repro­duc­ing all aspects of life ” (Mul­ti­tude, 94). It stands “above soci­ety, tran­scen­dent, as a sov­er­eign author­i­ty and impos­es its order” (Mul­ti­tude, 94). These char­ac­ter­is­tics of biopow­er are strik­ing­ly close to the actions of the Bush admin­is­tra­tion itself, and know­ing this, Negri and Hardt, will give a counter posi­tion, called biopo­lit­i­cal pro­duc­tion, as insur­gent to biopow­er. Biopo­lit­i­cal pro­duc­tion is imma­nent to soci­ety (more Spin­ozist) and “cre­ates social rela­tion­ships and forms through col­lab­o­ra­tive forms of labor” (Mul­ti­tude 95). The pow­er of biopo­lit­i­cal pro­duc­tion is drawn from the poten­tial that the insur­gency embod­ies. The mul­ti­tude becomes a poten­tial threat to Empire and, even though Empire uses all its biopow­er against the insur­gent move­ments, ulti­mate­ly, the infi­nite war will reach its lim­its and has­ten the cri­sis intrin­sic to late cap­i­tal­ism and its inces­sant dri­ve for new ter­ri­to­ri­al­i­ties. Although this falls into the old eco­nom­ic deter­min­ism that has con­sis­tent­ly failed the rad­i­cal imag­i­na­tion, it does open a cre­ative pos­si­bil­i­ty for rev­o­lu­tion­ary sub­jec­tiv­i­ty, espe­cial­ly if one con­sid­ers pol­i­tics as war pur­sued by oth­er means in our his­tor­i­cal present; war has become the regime of biopow­er and in this mode becomes indis­tin­guish­able from police activ­i­ty. It is by work­ing with “sur­plus” knowl­edge and skills mold­ed into a real strug­gle against Pow­er that this cre­ativ­i­ty begins to show itself. This cre­ativ­i­ty calls for the multitude’s capac­i­ty for exo­dus and resis­tance, but more impor­tant­ly for its con­stituent pow­er capa­ble of cre­at­ing a new soci­ety.

The first sec­tion of Mul­ti­tude sees with­in infi­nite war the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a fresh and enlight­ened emer­gence of democ­ra­cy. The authors schema­tize the hope of regain­ing democracy’s pri­or sig­nif­i­cance (in the sense of 18th cen­tu­ry con­cep­tions) since the end­ing of the cold war. In prob­a­bly one of the more crit­i­cal­ly engaged parts of the book, Hardt and Negri repro­duce four con­tem­po­rary argu­ments con­cern­ing glob­al­iza­tion and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of democ­ra­cy, all of which they find insuf­fi­cient for the project of the mul­ti­tude.

The first of these is the social demo­c­ra­t­ic claim that democ­ra­cy is hin­dered by glob­al­iza­tion. Glob­al­iza­tion is usu­al­ly defined only in eco­nom­ic terms in this posi­tion, and its valid­i­ty is seri­ous­ly under­mined by 9/11/2001 and by its reduc­tion­ist econ­o­mistic ten­den­cies. The sec­ond posi­tion is that of the lib­er­al cos­mopoli­tan, which claims that glob­al­iza­tion fos­ters democ­ra­cy, and that through greater insti­tu­tion­al and polit­i­cal reg­u­la­tion of economies that are not depen­dent on the old rule of nation states a greater demo­c­ra­t­ic poten­tial is released, one which results in a mul­ti­lat­er­al approach to glob­al­iza­tion with the Unit­ed Nations as the most pow­er­ful instru­ment and arbiter of main­tain­ing this mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism. This posi­tion was obvi­ous­ly unmasked in the March 2003 Unit­ed Nations ses­sions on Iraq by demon­strat­ing the futil­i­ty of speak­ing truth to Pow­er. In the third claim, Unit­ed States glob­al hege­mo­ny is the benev­o­lent heir to Euro­pean impe­ri­al­ism and as the last mil­i­tary super­pow­er becomes the watch­man over the “end of his­to­ry,” with mil­i­tary out­posts strate­gi­cal­ly posi­tioned to max­i­mize the con­trol of resources nec­es­sary to the hyper-con­sump­tive pop­u­la­tions of the “advanced coun­tries”: “Think of Iraq as a mil­i­tary base with a very large oil reserve (it’s the super­star of the future) under­neath– you can’t ask for bet­ter than that.”4)McQuaig, Lin­da. It’s the Crude, Dude: War ‚Big Oil, and the Fight for the Plan­et. Anchor Cana­da, forth­com­ing, 2005. Cita­tion from Fadel Gheit, oil ana­lyst at Oppen­heimer & Co. One may look at The Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Strat­e­gy pam­phlet and the work by Robert Kagan on war for greater insights into this attempt towards glob­al hege­mo­ny (all writ­ten after 9/11/2001).

The fourth posi­tion giv­en on glob­al­iza­tion and democ­ra­cy, the tra­di­tion­al- val­ues con­ser­v­a­tive, focus­es on the cul­tur­al, and its cen­tral thrust is that glob­al­iza­tion threat­ens democ­ra­cy because it threat­ens a con­ser­v­a­tive val­ue sys­tem. Even though there are some sim­i­lar­i­ties to the social demo­c­ra­t­ic posi­tion, the ide­o­logues are quite dif­fer­ent; Pat Buchanan (with char­ac­ter­is­tic xeno­pho­bic force) is the chief spokesper­son for the tra­di­tion­al val­ues argu­ment.

For two rea­sons are these four posi­tions inad­e­quate to a rethink­ing of democ­ra­cy. First, from all of the four dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives, it is the process of glob­al­iza­tion and per­ma­nent glob­al war that throws democ­ra­cy into ques­tion. Although democ­ra­cy has been con­sid­ered to be “in cri­sis” for at least two cen­turies by var­i­ous groups such as lib­er­al aris­to­crats (in the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry and among many thinkers of civ­il soci­ety) and con­tem­po­rary tech­nocrats, today’s sit­u­a­tion calls for a “leap in scale” from the nation- state to the whole globe, and democ­ra­cy must be dis­lodged from its tra­di­tion­al mean­ings. The four argu­ments giv­en ear­li­er do not ade­quate­ly con- front the “scale of the con­tem­po­rary cri­sis of democ­ra­cy” (Mul­ti­tude 236). Sec­ond, it is clear that all of the argu­ments either under­cut or post­pone real democ­ra­cy (rule of every­one by every­one, where the peo­ple rule and the gov­ern­ment obeys). In fact, the lib­er­al aris­to­crat­ic position’s call for lib­er­ty first and then democ­ra­cy fun­da­men­tal­ly becomes the apol­o­gy for the absolute rule of pri­vate prop­er­ty. Kant’s idea of Cos­mopoli­tanism is not ade­quate to the task of think­ing democ­ra­cy from below, and the cur­rent task of the “unfin­ished Demo­c­ra­t­ic project of moder­ni­ty” is a return to eigh­teenth cen­tu­ry con­cep­tions of democ­ra­cy because this era man­i­fest­ed a cri­sis of the prac­tices of democ­ra­cy prompt­ed by anoth­er leap of scale. One might see this cri­sis in terms of “the peo­ple” as a force. New con­cep­tions and prac­tices had to be thought as well as a thor­ough recast­ing of rep­re­sen­ta­tion, and Negri and Hardt find in Max Weber’s three basic types of rep­re­sen­ta­tion (appro­pri­at­ed, free, and instruct­ed) a fresh polit­i­cal task of trans­for­ma­tion, i.e. of chang­ing appro­pri­at­ed forms into more lib­er­al and free forms, which, in turn, are trans­formed into instruct­ed ones which make for stronger con­nec­tiv­i­ty between those rep­re­sent­ed and the rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

In their analy­sis of the nine­teenth and ear­ly twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry social­ist and com­mu­nist tra­di­tions, they show the move­ment of “democ­ra­cy from below” that was intend­ed to neu­tral­ize the notion of the auton­o­my of pol­i­tics. Cit­ing inspi­ra­tions of democ­ra­cy and rep­re­sen­ta­tion tak­en from the Paris Com­mune, Hardt and Negri point towards the “gov­ern­ment of the peo­ple by the peo­ple” (Marx) and the “fuller democ­ra­cy“ (Lenin) that became new avenues for polit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion and essen­tial­ly the begin­ning of direct democ­ra­cy. These pre­cious moments from these tra­di­tions are to be retained and exam­ined in the light of what they call a Madis­on­ian-Lenin­ist syn­the­sis, a new sci­ence of democ­ra­cy to encounter the tyran­ny of the glob­al order of the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry: this science’s first objec­tive is to con­sis­tent­ly destroy sov­er­eign­ty (or the Pow­er of the One) in the name and prac­tice of democ­ra­cy (a new Lenin­ist moment, but this time not only abol­ish­ing the state but the entire glob­al order). Coin­cid­ing with this destruc­tion of one rule is the Madis­on­ian moment of cre­at­ing new demo­c­ra­t­ic insti­tu­tion­al struc­tures, which would pro­tect with a sys­tem of checks and bal­ances, rights and guar­an­tees against cor­rup­tion and dis­so­lu­tion. This new sci­ence of democ­ra­cy is built upon “the com­mon,” which empha­sizes the col­lab­o­ra­tive nature of today’s biopo­lit­i­cal pro­duc­tion. Put in oth­er terms, social life is not only pro­duced in com­mon but is also pro­duced in the com­mon, and the cre­ation of the com­mon revers­es the log­ic of pri­vate prop­er­ty (the dri­ve for orig­i­nary accu­mu­la­tion). In this rever­sal a state of sec­ond nature is cre­at­ed, and the mul­ti­tude is the new rev­o­lu­tion­ary sub­jec­tiv­i­ty that is imma­nent with­in this sec­ond nature.

It is debat­able that such a trans­for­ma­tion would come out of “an inten­si­fi­ca­tion of the com­mon” (Mul­ti­tude 213) that is to say, a new human­i­ty. Even though signs of the com­mon abound–the inter­net, con­fronta­tions over who owns genes, who holds patent rights, file shar­ing, decen­tral­ized networks–we can cer­tain­ly ask on the one hand if the con­di­tions for the birth of a trans­formed and tru­ly lib­er­at­ed human­i­ty are fun­da­men­tal­ly there or, on the oth­er hand, is the “com­mon” in its alien­at­ed and high­ly cap­i­tal­ized form sim­ply fod­der for the new right and its designs? The U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cer­tain­ly demon­strates that a “ Repub­li­can” pro­le­tari­at has been won over, and who is to say a sim­i­lar sce­nario won’t devel­op with the mul­ti­tude?

THE MULTITUDE AND A VIEW FROM NORTH AMERICA

His­to­ry, con­ceived as pure sci­ence and become sov­er­eign, would con­sti­tute a kind of clos­ing out of the accounts of life for humankind. His­tor­i­cal edu­ca­tion is whole­some and promis­ing for the future only in the ser­vice of a pow­er­ful new life-affirm­ing influ­ence, of a ris­ing cul­ture for example…5)Nietzsche, Fred­erich. On the Advan­tage and Dis­ad­van­tage of His­to­ry for Life trans. by Peter Preuss. Indi­anapo­lis: Hack­ett ‚1980, p.14.

Her­bert Mar­cuse in his 1966 polit­i­cal pref­ace to Eros and Civ­i­liza­tion (1955) wrote that “Today, the fight for life, the fight for Eros, is the polit­i­cal fight.”6)Marcuse, Her­bert. Eros and Civ­i­liza­tion: A Philo­soph­i­cal Inquiry into Freud. Boston: Bea­con Press, 1966, p.xxv. This rad­i­cal state­ment res­onates even more true today, and Hardt and Negri give us an attempt­ed polit­i­cal ontol­ogy of a force, “the ‘always already’ mul­ti­tude” and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a ‘not yet’ mul­ti­tude whose con­stituent pow­er is found­ed on the rage and love of the his­tor­i­cal present in which the slo­gan, “anoth­er world is pos­si­ble” becomes sig­nif­i­cant. Not only does the mul­ti­tude have the capac­i­ty for exo­dus (Deleuz­ian lines of flight with weapons) and resis­tance but it has also the capac­i­ty to cre­ate a new soci­ety through shared social, expe­ri­en­tial, and infor­ma­tion­al net­works. These new strug­gles are encap­su­lat­ed at the end of Mul­ti­tude:

We can already rec­og­nize that today time is split between a present that is already dead and a future that is already liv­ing- and the yawn­ing abyss between them is becom­ing enor­mous. In time, an event will thrust us like an arrow into that liv­ing future. This will be the real polit­i­cal act of love.7)Hardt, Michael and Anto­nio Negri. Mul­ti­tude: War and Democ­ra­cy in the Age of Empire New York: Pen­guin, 2004, p.358.

For the authors of Mul­ti­tude the polit­i­cal fight is the biopo­lit­i­cal (the fight for life) against Biopow­er (iron­i­cal­ly, both the fear of and inces­sant dri­ve towards death). How­ev­er, a new con­sti­tu­tive tem­po­ral­i­ty is not artic­u­lat­ed, and one is left in the abyss of the “not yet” tem­po­ral­i­ty that has become a com­mon­place of post­mod­ern pol­i­tics from Der­ri­da to Agam­ben, one that plays upon Heidegger’s dec­la­ra­tion that “Pos­si­bil­i­ty is High­er than Actu­al­i­ty” (Kant’s The­sis on Being) and not on the utopic “not yet” of Ernst Bloch or the mes­sian­ic tem­po­ral­i­ty of Ben­jamin. Although kairos is men­tioned as both the dialec­ti­cal counter weight to the lin­ear accu­mu­la­tion of time and as the authen­tic moment when a deci­sion of prax­is is to be tak­en, no cri­te­ria for mea­sur­ing and eval­u­at­ing nor descrip­tive char­ac­ter­is­tics of this time of rup­ture are giv­en. After such a breath­tak­ing and detailed analy­sis of the con­tem­po­rary war machine, the his­tor­i­cal back­ground and future cri­te­ria of the democ­ra­cy to come, we are caught in the remains of a the­o­ret­i­cal par­a­digm with­out a clear sense of role of cur­rent insti­tu­tions, of labor strug­gles espe­cial­ly in times of “job­less recov­er­ies” (Aronowitz), dimin­ish­ing returns, and a rather roman­ti­cized notion of the poor.

In order to build and con­struct a “ris­ing cul­ture” we must rec­og­nize that we are locat­ed between the Scyl­la of a Gram­s­cian opti­mism of the will and the utopist hope of Ernst Bloch and the Charyb­dis of the man­darin pes­simism of Adorno and his under­stand­ing of the ease in which the cul­ture indus­try assim­i­lates dis­sent, whether it is artis­tic or guer­ril­la war­fare. Mul­ti­tude may be seen as mark­ing this topos of ambi­gu­i­ty and becomes a start­ing point for dis­cus­sion with­in a open end­ed the­o­ret­i­cal matrix that would include recent works by Kojin Karatani (Tran­s­cri­tique: On Kant and Marx) and Stathis Kou­ve­lakis (Phi­los­o­phy and Rev­o­lu­tion: From Kant to Marx). A new tem­po­ral under­stand­ing of the pos­si­bil­i­ty of the polit­i­cal (beyond the ethi­cist notions) today requires a pro­gram of prin­ci­ples and a grasp of pol­i­tics that simul­ta­ne­ous­ly takes hold of the every­day strug­gles and the event of rev­o­lu­tion­ary rup­ture. Hardt and Negri give us a new under­stand- ing of the space we inhab­it in the new world order and the march towards glob­al­iza­tion but do not con­cep­tu­al­ize the new tem­po­ral­i­ty nec­es­sary to over­turn the new behe­moth engulf­ing the globe. From their bird’s eye per- spec­tive, we can await (I would imag­ine) a third vol­ume that engages the ques­tion of the time of revolution.8)Negri, Anto­nio. Time for Rev­o­lu­tion. Trans. by Mat­teo Man­dori­ni. Con­tin­u­um, 2003. In this work Negri begins to devel­op a the­o­ry of con­stituent time but unfor­tu­nate­ly his insights are not sig­nif­i­cant­ly devel­oped in Mul­ti­tude.

But we can seri­ous­ly doubt that a third vol­ume will answer and/or sub­stan- tive­ly address the press­ing ques­tions in North Amer­i­ca of what are the pred­i­cates of new strug­gles in our insti­tu­tions, espe­cial­ly the ques­tion of labor unions; even though they may be con­sid­ered insti­tu­tion­al dinosaurs, they remain a force for major orga­nized actions such as gen­er­al strikes. And we can ask about the role of the “mul­ti­tude” in our edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu- tions, those mired in a “gen­er­a­tion debt” men­tal­i­ty before they become part of the work force. Can this gen­er­a­tion face their grim real­i­ties and become crit­i­cal­ly con­scious of the force of mak­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary demands upon the social field they inhab­it and the insti­tu­tions of which they are a part? Will there be a con­cert­ed and crit­i­cal acknowl­edge­ment of the civ­il war mate­ri­al­iz­ing in the Unit­ed States?

Marx knew well, as Stathis Kouvelakis9)Kouvelakis, Stathis. Philsos­o­phy and Rev­o­lu­tion: From Kant to Marx, Trans. by G.M. Gosh­gar­i­an. Lon­don: Ver­so. See the remark­ably lucid and orig­i­nal chap­ter 5, pp.232–274. reminds us, that by its entry into the news­pa­pers, by becom­ing a news­pa­per cor­re­spon­dent, Phi­los­o­phy assumes its crit­i­cal mis­sion and becomes world­ly and attuned to every­day strug­gles. In this reflec­tion upon the empir­i­cal field the pol­i­tics of the “mul­ti­tude” eludes rather than con­fronts the con­crete agency need­ed today. By not hav­ing a new the­o­ry of class and evad­ing the exist­ing strug­gles from the “cen­tu­ry of hands” (Rim­baud) and by laud­ing the new cen­tu­ry of brains and its cyber­punk­ish vocab­u­lary and slo­ga­neer­ing, Negri and Hardt have still not pro­duced a viable and sub­stan­tive the­o­ry of his­tor­i­cal agency. Sur­plus knowl­edge is a con­stant for transna­tion­al cap­i­tal but whom does it lib­er­ate? Spinoza’s mul­ti­tude were those with­out church in the sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry and let’s hope that today’s non-sec­u­lar­ized many do not fall into the neo con­ser­v­a­tive evan­gel­i­cal fix and neo fun­da­men­tal­ist move­ments.

WORKS CITED

  • Hardt, Michael, and Anto­nio Negri. Empire. Cam­bridge: Har­vard UP, 2000.
  • Hardt, Michael, and Anto­nio Negri. Mul­ti­tude: War and Democ­ra­cy in the Age of Empire. New York:Penguin, 2004.
  • Karatani, Kojin. Tran­s­cri­tique: On Kant and Marx. Trans. by Sabu Kohso. Cambridge:.MIT, 2003. Kou­ve­lakis, Stathis. Phi­los­o­phy and Rev­o­lu­tion: From Kant to Marx. Trans. by G.M. Gosh­gar­i­an. Lon­don: Ver­so, 2003.
  • Machi­avel­li, Nico­lo. The Prince. Trans. and ed. Robert M. Adams. New York: W. W. Nor­ton, 1992.
  • Mar­cuse, Her­bert. Eros and Civ­i­liza­tion: A Philo­soph­i­cal Inquiry into Freud. Boston: Beacon,1966.
  • Negri, Anto­nio. Time for Rev­o­lu­tion. Trans. by Mat­teo Man­dori­ni. Con­tin­u­um, 2003.
  • Niet­zsche, Fred­erich. On the Advan­tage and Dis­ad­van­tage of His­to­ry for Life. Trans. Peter Preuss. Indi­anapo­lis: Hack­ett, 1980.
  • Ross, Kristin. The Emer­gence of Social Space: Rim­baud and the Paris Com­mune. Min­neapo­lis: Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta Press, 1989.
  • Schür­mann, Rein­er. Bro­ken Hege­monies. Trans. Regi­nald Lil­ly. Bloom­ing­ton: Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2003.
  • Virno, Pao­lo. A Gram­mar of the Mul­ti­tude. Trans. Isabel­la Berto­let­ti, James Cas­caito and Andrea Cas­son. New York: Semiotext(e), 2004.[printfriendly]

References   [ + ]

1. Schürmann, Rein­er. Bro­ken Hege­monies. Trans. by Regi­nald Lil­ly. Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2003. foot­note 72, p.638.
2. Machi­avel­li, N. The Prince. Trans. and ed. By Robert M. Adams. Nor­ton crit­i­cal edi­tion. 1992. p.41.
3. Hardt.M, and Negri,T. Mul­ti­tude: War and Democ­ra­cy in the Age of Empire. New York: Pen­guin, 2004. p.xvii.
4. McQuaig, Lin­da. It’s the Crude, Dude: War ‚Big Oil, and the Fight for the Plan­et. Anchor Cana­da, forth­com­ing, 2005. Cita­tion from Fadel Gheit, oil ana­lyst at Oppen­heimer & Co.
5. Nietzsche, Fred­erich. On the Advan­tage and Dis­ad­van­tage of His­to­ry for Life trans. by Peter Preuss. Indi­anapo­lis: Hack­ett ‚1980, p.14.
6. Marcuse, Her­bert. Eros and Civ­i­liza­tion: A Philo­soph­i­cal Inquiry into Freud. Boston: Bea­con Press, 1966, p.xxv.
7. Hardt, Michael and Anto­nio Negri. Mul­ti­tude: War and Democ­ra­cy in the Age of Empire New York: Pen­guin, 2004, p.358.
8. Negri, Anto­nio. Time for Rev­o­lu­tion. Trans. by Mat­teo Man­dori­ni. Con­tin­u­um, 2003. In this work Negri begins to devel­op a the­o­ry of con­stituent time but unfor­tu­nate­ly his insights are not sig­nif­i­cant­ly devel­oped in Mul­ti­tude.
9. Kouvelakis, Stathis. Philsos­o­phy and Rev­o­lu­tion: From Kant to Marx, Trans. by G.M. Gosh­gar­i­an. Lon­don: Ver­so. See the remark­ably lucid and orig­i­nal chap­ter 5, pp.232–274.

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